Laini Giles

The Forgotten Flapper

A Novel of Olive Thomas

Sepia Stories 2015

New Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in Historical FictionNew Books in LiteratureNew Books Network April 8, 2016 C. P. Lesley

A ghost haunts the New Amsterdam Theatre, near Times Square in New York. She wears a green outfit in flapper style, and she’s just...

A ghost haunts the New Amsterdam Theatre, near Times Square in New York. She wears a green outfit in flapper style, and she’s just a little annoyed to realize that no one is scared of her, even though she mostly rearranges the scenery rather than clanking chains or leaping out and scaring people. Her name is Olive Thomas, and she is one of the first silent movie stars, although her early death means that she is much less famous than her sister-in-law, Mary Pickford.

Born near Pittsburgh, Olive moves to New York to escape a teen marriage and a life raised in poverty. After winning a contest as the Most Beautiful Girl in New York, she becomes an artist’s model before securing a position with Flo Ziegfeld, the mogul behind the Follies. Ziegfeld takes a shine to Olive, and soon she is not only dancing for him but has become a regular in the much racier Midnight Follies. Soon she and Ziegfeld are involved in an affair, but when Ziegfeld goes back to his wife, Olive takes off for Hollywood. In Santa Monica, she runs into Jack Pickford, Mary’s younger brother, and discovers her kindred spirit. To the great distress of his family, the two of them drink and party their way around movie sets on both coasts. Over the course of four years, Olive makes twenty films, including The Flapper—the film that introduced that term into the national lingo. Then she and Jack decide to vacation in Paris …

The Forgotten Flapper: A Novel of Olive Thomas (Sepia Stories, 2015) brings this forgotten actress back to life. Laini Giles  vividly captures both the culture of those early days when films were still called “flickers” and Olive Thomas’s complex, charming, and compelling personality. The ostrich scene alone is—dare we say it?—unforgettable.


C. P. Lesley is the author of Legends of the Five Directions (The Golden Lynx, The Winged Horse, and, as of April 2016, The Swan Princess), a historical fiction series set in 1530s Russia, during the childhood of Ivan the Terrible. Find out more about her at http://www.cplesley.com.

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